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Why the Water Levels Fluctuate Annually at Lake Pleasant

“Why is the water level so low?” is a question we frequently hear each summer at Lake Pleasant. Fluctuating water levels at Lake Pleasant aren’t an anomaly, the phenomenon happens annually because Lake Pleasant is an online storage reservoir for Central Arizona Project (CAP).

A series of agricultural dams were created in 1927, 1928 and 1993 to create what is now Lake Pleasant Regional Park and 10,000 acres of lake surface area. The man-made lake’s two main water sources are the Colorado River via the CAP canal and runoff from the Agua Fria River. During the fall and winter CAP pumps Colorado River water into Lake Pleasant, and then each year, releases water during the spring and summer to supply multiples counties across the state with water.***

“The Central Arizona Water Conservation District determines the water level of the Lake. High water elevation is reached in mid spring which brings the water elevation to 1,702 feet above sea level. In June, the draw down cycle begins with water released from the Lake through the CAP canal for irrigation of the west valley, agricultural areas and several cities and towns as far away as Tucson.”*

Lake levels are typically restored by late September or early October, but some summers more water is pumped out of Lake Pleasant if there are issues with other nearby water sources such as Lake Havasu.

In a 2018 AZ Family TV interview with reporter Kim Quintero, Darrin Francom, director of operations, power and engineering for Central Arizona Project explained, “In the winter months, we pump water into the lake when power is low and our water use is low, and in the summer we make releases when our water demand is high and power prices are high, and we can generate some electricity.”**

Fluctuating water levels can affect shoreline access and the availability of shorelines, as well as underwater hazards that become more prevalent when water levels are low. Maricopa County Sherriff’s office goes out on the lake daily during the summer months to move and mark hazards, but boaters need to be watchful, minimize speed and remember to always launch from ramps instead of shorelines to minimize issues.

Curious what the current water level is at Lake Pleasant? Check water levels here: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=b21557a2eafd4badaecb146eb1bd7c84.

Sources:
*Maricopa County Parks Department:
https://www.maricopacountyparks.net/park-locator/lake-pleasant-regional-park/park-information/waddell-dam/
**Channel 3 News Story:
https://www.azfamily.com/archives/low-water-level-at-lake-pleasant-reveals-islands-and-other-hazards-for-visitors/article_60621d8b-8172-5d80-b942-56f097ce2d09.html
***Central Arizona Project:
https://www.cap-az.com/departments/water-operations/lake-pleasant-operations

Scorpion Bay is Arizona’s premier floating playground, offering everything from daily pontoon and ski boat rentals to slips for harboring your yacht (or dinghy). Come for the fishing or come for the frolicking—either way, incredible mountain views, fantastic dining and world-class marina services await less than an hour out of Phoenix. https://www.scorpionbayaz.com/

Rental reservations must be made prior to visit, preferably a week in advance. Scorpion Bay Grill is open for both in-restaurant dining as well as to-go orders. Face coverings are required. For county park updates click here.